Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Museum is CLOSED

Sorry but we are closed for the winter.  Irrespective of what anyone reads anywhere else (there seem to be some inaccurate websites out there) the Museum is currently CLOSED.  This is what our website says and this is the truth!  We are closed for refurbishment and will re-open on March 25th.

Article on Ursula Kemp

Article about Ursula Kemp and her memory/legend.
Thanks to Graham King for bringing this article to our attention.

We have 12k followers on twitter!

Hello to all our followers!

Witch's house in America

Interesting article on amazing house in America!

Exhibition in Manchester

This new exhibition entitled Magic, Witches and Devils in the Early Modern World sounds really good.

The Witch film

New film coming soon called "The Witch".  Trailer can be viewed online:

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Happy to announce our next exhibition

Last year, we created a temporary exhibition space in the Museum.  Our first temporary exhibition was Witches and Witchlore: the illustrations of Jos A Smith and it has been very well received (the Museum team were all sad to see it go!)

Our next exhibition will provide us with an opportunity to explore a key topic (which we haven't had space for in the Museum before) and that topic is Halloween: its history, customs and developing culture.

Here is the poster for our new exhibition.  Many more details to follow soon.

William Worthington Cernunnos painting

This evocative painting by William Worthington will be re-hung in a more prominent position in the newly refurbished upstairs gallery. William's work was recently featured in the British Museum's 'Celts' exhibition. This painting is an alternative version of the Cernunnos card from William's Druidcraft Tarot card deck.

The Museum when it was in Bourton on the Water

The Museum received a fascinating email with attached photos from Jeremy Heath (a member of the Museum's Friends organisation.  We are so grateful to him for sharing his research with us!

Here are some extracts from the email and some of the accompanying photos:

"I read, with interest, your diary entry about the possible location of the Museum of Witchcraft in Bourton-on-the-Water. I live and work very close to Bourton... I have been a "friend" of the Museum in Boscastle for over two years, attending one of their talk days in the "Welly". I have been visiting every year since 1979, and love the collection and it's growth and change over the years. I purchased Steve Patterson's book about Cecil Williamson and found it extremely fascinating, especially the history of the different locations."

S"o today I visited Bourton-on-the-Water to try and verify the location of the museum, in the 50's and 60's." 
Photo: Getty Images

"I have visited the "Toyshop" many times and had no idea it was connected to the museum in Boscastle, however I did find an old photo online of the entrance and I have tried in the past, to identify exactly where it was. But today I discovered that because of a new building being erected in the last 30 years, its location was disguised. But today I discovered it's exact location thanks to your diary entry, saying about the Toy Shop."

"I found the entry doorway almost shown on the old photograph and the window above. I found the exact same street (High Street), but where there is a gap or an alley between the museum and the next shop, a new building has been erected, a gift shop called The Cedars, which I discovered has been in business for 30 years. This has altered the view, but I took several photographs to show it IS the place. Indeed, as you can see there are large stones outside the entrance, two of which are still there, and I have compared the wall stonework and it IS the correct location. I took several other views and the buildings along the street are definately identical to those in the old photo."

Photographs courtesy of Jeremy Heath Copyright of photographs on these pages is retained by the owner where acknowledged.

Ithell Colquhoun Project events in Cornwall

The Museum just found out about a series of workshops which sound fantastic!  They have been organised by Steve Patterson, Penny Macbeth and Lally Macbeth and will explore the artist Ithell Colquhoun's surrealist techniques and methodology.

Please circulate this to anyone who might be interested.

New look for "Old Hornie"

One of the most popular and memorable parts of the Museum is the upstairs gallery where a large goat headed creature sits.  He is nicknamed "Old Hornie" and has been a feature of the Museum from its early days.  We are very excited to announce that he will be going through another re-invention when we refurbish the top gallery of the Museum (his domain!)

He used to wear white...

For many years, he has worn red...

Now he will wear a new robe, which is green (see photos below of the robes).

The small tunic to the right will go under the larger robe.

And he's getting new legs too!

Monday, January 11, 2016

The British Book of Spells and Charms by Graham King coming soon!

Graham King ran the Museum for many years.  He has written a fantastic book of spells and charms (which will be available to buy from the Museum shop soon).  You can watch a film about the book here:

With thanks to Troy Books.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Museums at Night case study

For the past couple of years, the Museum has taken part in Museums at Night activities. To quote from the Museum at Night website:
"Twice a year, non-profit cultural publisher Culture24 invites all UK museums, galleries and heritage sites to throw open their doors after hours to showcase their treasures in unexpected ways.

Museums at Night is an opportunity for museums and galleries to come together around a single, simple campaign that is attractive to venues, audiences and the media. It’s a social experience, where visitors can get involved, delve deeper into fascinating subjects and perhaps enjoy a cocktail or two with friends."

Initially, we ran a candlelit evening and on October 31st, we extended our involvement by not only opening for the evening by candlelit but also by hosting a series of events (organised for the Museum in the main by Cassandra Latham-Jones).  

Culture 24 were looking for interesting examples of Museums at Night events this year so Judith wrote a piece for the case study section of their website.  It can now be read online:

The Museum provided the photographs, the videos were inserted by Culture 24 and should have been credited appropriately.  

Radio 4 programme on Yule


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Radio 4 podcast on Salem Witch Trials

Should be interesting to those who are interested in the history of persecution.
Photo above: part of the Museum's Persecution display.

Clue to the Museum's location in Bourton on the Water

We know that the Museum was one located in Bourton-on-the-Water, in Gloucestershire but we have never really been sure where.  Graham King recently discovered this clue and may have found the Museum's old address in this article:

which states that ‘..........the model railway building was a witchcraft museum in the 1960s’.

So the address may well have been:

Box Bush
High Street
GL54 2AN

Many thanks to Graham King for drawing this to our attention.

There is also a video clip from 1964 which references a Witchcraft Museum in the Cotswolds.  It can be viewed here:

Monday, January 04, 2016

The Museum is now closed for the winter

We've had a busy couple of weeks over the festive period but now the Museum is closed for winter (and more refurbishment works).  We will re-open on Friday March 25th at 10.30am and remain open every day until October 31st 2016.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Article about an Ancient Egyptian Book of Spells

Imbolc Window Display

Image courtesy of Gillian Nott.

We regularly change our main window display so that it is in sympathy with the Wheel of the Year. The main part of the window display is a fantastic stag's head which was created by Marti Dean.  Every season, we change what is hung from the antlers and what objects are in display in the window.  This informs visitors about the ritual year and provides regular visitors with something new to see every few months.

The following information is taken from the current window display:

Stag’s Head by Artist Marti Dean

Of the animals connected with witchcraft and magic, the stag is closely associated with the Horned God of Witchcraft. With roots set in the pagan histories and traditions of Europe, the symbolism of the stag has been represented in a variety of ways, from the Neolithic painting of the antlered 'Sorcerer' within the cave Trois-Frères in France, to the Gundestrup Cauldron, a piece of Iron Age silverwork depicting the Celtic antlered god Cernunnos.

For some modern witches, the stag–god Cernunnos is recognised as the horned god of nature and magic, and thus is celebrated in the rituals, art, and magic of modern witchcraft. This anthropomorphic sculpture of a green stag with branch-like antlers symbolises the magic of the regenerative force in nature. The objects hung on the antlers will be changed throughout the coming year.

For Imbolc, the stag’s antlers have been decorated with Bride’s Crosses (made by Gillian Nott).

The Wheel of the Year
The Ancient Festivals
The year can be divided into eight major festivals which mark the passage of the Sun through the year and relate directly to the agricultural cycle.  This is significant to many people (including witches)  The current festival is:

Imbolc or Candlemas
1st or 2nd February

Imbolc marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.  From now on the days get noticeably longer and  seeds that have been dormant all winter start to stir.  

Sacred to the ancient Goddess Bride, Bridhe or Bridget.   A time to visit one of the many Holy wells so loved by Bride the healer.  In Ireland it is the feast of St Brigid (the Christianised Pagan Goddess).

The Winter is passed, the return of the Sun King is evident.  Celebrate by lighting candles.

The Christian Church has adopted this festival as the feast of the Purification of the Virgin.

This is the time of year to hang a ‘Brides Cross’, in your house as protection.

Objects in the Window Display
The stag’s antlers are decorated with various Bride’s Crosses which were made for the Museum by Gillian Nott.  These were traditionally made on Saint Bridgit’s Eve (January 31st) and were hung in honour of Bridgit and to gain her protection.

There is also a Bridgit’s Girdle on the antlers (it is the large woven hoop as illustrated above from the National Museum, Dublin).  The illustration was taken from “The Year in Ireland” by Kevin Danaher (1972) and the following information has been adapted from the same work.
The crios bride or Bridgit’s Girdle is a straw rope, eight to ten feet long, with a number of crosses plaited in straw attached to it.  
A party of young people would go from house to house.  At each house visited, the occupants were expected to pass through the crios, thus obtaining the protection of Bridgit and freedom from illness (especially pains in the bones) for the coming year.  

Peter, Judith and Tom demonstrate the correct use of the crios bride in the photos below.

For men: right leg first, then right arm and shoulder, next head, then left shoulder and arm then left leg.

For women: put it down over the head, shoulders and body and then step out of it.

For animals: there are examples of the crios bride being used for animals.  They were passed through it (or under it if they were too large).

And here it is in the window display...

Snowdrops and candles
Bridgit is associated with many things especially those that are white: milk, lambs, white candles and snowdrops.  There are several Irish songs which make mention of “Bridgit, dressed in white.”  Snowdrops  and candles symbolise the returning of light and spring so we have placed these around the base of the stag in the window display.  It is a custom to light all the lights in your house at this time to welcome back the light.

Goddess candle holder

This Goddess candle holder [Museum object number 212] brings together two of the main themes of Imbolc: the Goddess and light.  While February 1st is now known as St Bridgit’s Day and Bridgit is recognised as a Saint by the Christian Church,   many of the ways in which people celebrate this day are distinctintly Pagan and hark back to a more ancient form of Goddess worship when Saint Bridgit was the Goddess Bride.  

We have also put copies of these two poems in the display where the poet spells Bridgit Brigid (the same idea, just a different spelling - there are many different spellings - see above).

From Crossings
By Seamus Heaney
On St. Brigid's Day the new life could be entered
By going through her girdle of straw rope
The proper way for men was right leg first
Then right arm and right shoulder, head, then left
Shoulder, arm and leg.
Women drew it down
Over the body and stepped out of it
The open they came into by these moves
Stood opener, hoops came off the world
They could feel the February air
Still soft above their heads and imagine
The limp rope fray and flare like wind-born gleanings
Or an unhindered goldfinch over ploughland.

A Brigid's Girdle (from The Spirit Level)
By Seamus Heaney
Last time I wrote I wrote from a rustic table
Under magnolias in South Carolina
As blossoms fell on me, and a white gable
As clean-lined as the prow of a white liner

Bisected sunlight in the sunlit yard.
I was glad of the early heat and the first quiet
I'd had for weeks. I heard the mocking bird
And a delicious, articulate

Flight of small plinkings from a dulcimer
Like feminine rhymes migrating to the north
Where you faced the music and the ache of summer
And earth's foreknowledge gathered in the earth.

Now it's St Brigid's Day and the first snowdrop
In County Wicklow, and this a Brigid's Girdle
I'm plaiting for you, an airy fairy hoop
(Like one of those old crinolines they'd trindle),

Twisted straw that's lifted in a circle
To handsel and to heal, a rite of spring
As strange and lightsome and traditional
As the motions you go through going through the thing.

Many thanks to Gillian Nott for her work, enthusiasm and ideas.  

Copyright of photographs on these pages is retained by the owner where acknowledged.